Graduate Course Descriptions
Fall 2009

COML 501.401 History of Literary Theory
Undergrad Need Permission
W 4-7 Jarosinksi
Cross listed with CLST 511, ENGL 573, GRMN 534, ROML 512, SLAV 500

This course pairs the reading of canonical theoretical texts with a critical examination of the forces behind the rise and fall of various schools of criticism. Our work throughout the semester will focus on a cluster of key concepts: tradition, authority, textuality, interpretation, ideology, difference, etc. Though the course centers on theoretical texts, it will also include theoretically informed close readings of a small selection of literary texts by Kafka, Borges, Woolf, Melville, Dickinson, Nabokov, DeLillo, and others. The course is meant both as a broad introduction to literary theory and as preparation for the M.A. exam in Comparative Literature. Most readings will be drawn from the exam list, though with an emphasis on those from the 20th century.

COML 509.401 Kierkegaard
W 2-5 Dunning
Cross listed with RELS 539

Kierkegaard wrote about faith throughout his short literary career. He examined faith as a paradox in Fear and Trembling and Philosophical Fragments. He explored the power of doubt in Johannes Climacus. He pondered what it means to live in faith in Purity of Heart, and how someone in despair could ever embrace faith in The Sickness unto Death. Finally, just a few years before his notorious series of essays attacking the Danish church and his death in 1855 at the age of forty-two, he published what may have been his most radical statement of all, For Self-Examination, in which he presents faith as a form of dying. This semester the Kierkegaard Seminar will tackle these relatively short but challenging works. The course will require two ten-page papers and weekly one-paragraph questions for discussion. There are no formal prerequisites, but experience in textual analysis is assumed. Open to all graduate students and advanced undergraduates. All students must use the assigned editions.

COML 524.401 Petrarch
R 2-5 Brownlee
Cross listed with ITAL 535

COML 554.401 Premodern Women
Undergrads Need Permission
M 9-12 Wallace
Cross listed with ENGL 553, RELS 531

"Was bleibt," asked Christa Wolf of her sometime homeland, communist East Germany (What Remains, 1990); and what remains of any woman (a question posed in her 1969 novel, written within that now-lost society, Nachdenken über Christa T)? This question is especially urgent for premodern women: for how, given masculine control of literary production and dissemination, might a woman account for herself, leave us a life that, to a greater or lesser extent, is hers? Chances of independent, self-authoring life diminished dramatically in England during the Reformation: brave women—Anne Askew, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Barton (the Nun of Kent)—died for reasons of state; the writing of their lives was out of their hands. But the exceptionality of these few decades misleads, viewed over a longer durée of female lives and lives.

Hildegard of Bingen provides the best pan-European point of departure because her life as Gesammtkunstwerk never again repeated: the rise of universities-- which postdated her life as musician, composer, cosmologist, scientist, playwright, jewelry designer, manuscript commissioner and illuminator, itinerant preacher, theologian, political critic, female friend and foundress of a monastery of one’s own—signaled a decline in female educational opportunity still not reversed when Virginia Woolf visited women at Cambridge in 1928. Heloise, humanist scholar and Latinist, becomes entangled with the first brilliant superstar of this emergent university culture; she ends her life much loved but entirely enclosed. The struggle to immure dedicated Catholic women continues across the Reformation: Clare of Assisi is denied the mobility of the friars who follow Francis; compliantly enclosed nuns (as in Germany) are rewarded with possibilities of literacy and textual culture denied to rebellious nuns (as in England); Teresa of Avila (poster-child of the Counter-Reformation; doctor of the Church since 1970) imposes newly ascetic and unforgiving enclosure upon Catholic women. Ironically, this vision of convent life becomes normative upon English Renaissance stages (rather than the more porous model, open to local needs, that actually prevailed in earlier English centuries).

Christina of Markyate, brilliant scion of an Anglo-Saxon and Norse-derived family, frustrated familial ambitions by refusing to marry, or to become a cleric’s kept woman. She instead lives a singular, religious life, becomes the darling of a French-speaking abbot and thus ensures that, after her death, that her life will be written; she is also portrayed in a Book of Hours. Christina’s Life, which sees her escape the clutches of five men, stands generically on the cusp of romance; so too the Lais of Marie de France, work of a brilliantly talented Anglo-Norman author who writes of werewolfs, enchanted ships and expiring lovers. Julian of Norwich, having enjoyed potent visions in a near-death experience (interrupted only by her solicitous mother) decides to spend the rest of her life meditating upon them. Margery Kempe, her East Anglian neighbor, elects rather for a life of travel and public witness; she ensures that her life be written by commissioning a scribe-amanuensis for her book. Her Book is discovered and identified in 1934 by Hope Emily Allen: a brilliant product of the precocious community of erudite women up the road at Bryn Mawr. Allen’s little-worked archive still exists (at Bryn Mawr and at Penn); the history and promotion of women’s lives by forms a subtheme of this course. We might consider Margery’s Prussian contemporary Dorothea: a first would-be saint of the pagan frontier, given to extremes of self-punishment, who was ridiculed by Günter Grass but much praised by Joseph Ratzinger.

The most important religious foundation in England between the Norman Conquest and the Reformation was Syon: a Thameside community of enclosed Bridgetines nuns whose ferocious reading habits (as attested by books in Philadelphia libraries) were catered to by monks across the river. Bridget and Catherine, the only two women canonized in late-medieval Europe, were fiery saints much loved by this elite community and later (via early printed texts) by citizens of London. Syon did not expire at the Reformation, but reconstituted itself abroad (at Lisbon). Dame Eleanor Hull, following the death of her son in the Wars of the Roses, retreated to a convent to translate psalms; Mary Sidney retreated to a former convent—Wilton—to translate psalms following the death of her brother. Protestant Englishwomen’s awareness of convent culture as a lost possibility of collective living and learning persists well into the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Cary, brought up in a priory previously inhabited by Augustinian hospitalers, imagined female rebellion in her Tragedy of Mariam and then lived it out by converting to Catholicism (as her husband, the king’s vicar in Ireland, tortured Catholics in Dublin castle). One of Elizabeth’s daughters danced at court and married well; four of the others became Benedictines in exile, copying, inter alia, the Showings of Julian of Norwich. Mary Ward, born like Elizabeth Cary in 1585, traveled to Spanish Flanders to become an enclosed Poor Clare, but then changed her mind in favor of an apostolate of the street (of more benefit, she reasoned, to the priestless poor of England). Her movement, which had spread rapidly across Europe, was stymied by a papal bull; the extraordinary cache of her materials, has just now been published for the first time, awaits serious literary investigation.

The course ends with Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Although condemned by A Room of One’s Own as “hare-brained, fantastical Margaret,” Cavendish represents something new and distinctive in this long project of premodern female life writing; if we need a period marker, she is it.

The course requirement will be one long essay, with independent research component. Special attention will be given to investigation of place; resources such as the Victoria County History (and continental equivalents) will thus be of special interest.

Undergraduates need to fill out a permit form and receive the approval of the Graduate Chair, their advisor, and the professor for all 500-level courses.

COML 556.401 Ancient Interpretation of the Bible
Ben Franklin Seminar
Dist. Crs. Arts & Letters – Cl of 09 and prior
TR 10:30-12:00 Stern
Cross listed with JWST 356, JWST 555, NELC 356, RELS 418

The purpose of this course is two-fold: first, to study some of the more important ways in which the Bible was read and interpreted before the modern period; second, to consider the uses to which some contemporary literary theorists have put these ancient modes of interpretation as models and precursors for their own writing. The major portion of the course will be devoted to intensive readings of major ancient exegetes, Jewish and Christian with a view to considering their exegetical approaches historically as well as from the perspective of contemporary critical and hermeneutical theory. Readings of primary sources will be accompanied by secondary readings that will be both historically oriented as well as theoretical, with the latter including Hartman, Kermode, Todorov, and Bloom.

COML 559.401 Spinoza and the German Enlightenment
R 2:30--5:30 pm Weissberg (in Lea Library, Van Pelt)
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 560

This is a course on the reception of the philosophy of Baruch [Benedictus] Spinoza and what can be called, after Pierre Bayle and G.W. Leibniz (among others), “Spinozism,” in such German Enlightenment figures as Moses Mendelssohn, G.E. Lessing, and Heinrich Heine. Readings will be drawn from Spinoza and his successors and will include both philosophical and literary texts. All texts will be available in the original languages and in translation. Time permitting, we will consider texts more typically associated with German Idealism.

COML 582.401 18th Century Aesthetics
Dist. Crs. Arts & Letters – Cl of 09 and prior
W 2-5 Guyer
Cross listed with GRMN 580, PHIL 480

A study of major authors and themes in eighteenth-century British and German aesthetics, culminating in a close study of Kant's "Critique of the Power of Judgment," which attempted to synthesize the two traditions. Themes will include the variety of aesthetic properties (the beautiful and the sublime), the aims of art, the relations between artistic creation and reception, the relations between art and nature, and the problem of taste. British authors may include Joseph Addison, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Edmund Burke, Alexander Gerard, Lord Kames, and James Beattie; German authors may include Alexander Baumgarten, Moses Mendelssohn, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Georg Sulzer, Johann Gottfried Herder, and Kant. Written work will consist of one term paper.

COML 592.401 The Model
W 12-3 Steiner
Cross listed with ENGL 591

"To live is to pose." Susan Sontag came to this scandalized conclusion from the photographs of American soldiers in Abu Ghraib beaming at the camera beside their torture victims. But she was hardly alone in equating contemporary life and art with posing and modeling. Warhol's claim that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, the current proliferation of memoirs and reality shows, websites like Facebook and You-Tube, and the Dove and Nike ad campaigns all bespeak a culture of modeling. Some of the most sophisticated literature, film, and art of our day explores what J. M. Coetzee calls "the real real thing," the model behind representation.

The syllabus for this course includes, among other works: Christopher Bram's Father of Frankenstein, Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year, Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, Jennifer Egan's Look at Me, Nicole Krauss's The History of Love, Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Volume One, Todd Haynes's I'm Not There, Andy Warhol's Interviews, George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl, Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things, visual art by Ann Hamilton, Vanessa Beecroft, Cindy Sherman, and Marlene Dumas, and theoretical texts by Jean Baudrillard, Nicolas Bourriaud, and Olafur Eliasson.

COML 597.401 Shakespeare and Popular Print Culture
Undergrads Need Permission
M 12-3 Lesser
Cross listed with ENGL 597

This course will place the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the context of early modern print culture and the question of popularity. Which plays were popular and how do we know? How does popularity gauged as economic success relate to "popular culture," and how do we theorize each of those terms? We will read some of the most popular printed plays of the period--including one or two Shakespeare plays, and several non-Shakespearen plays that are now less well known, if not forgotten, but were best-sellers then. We will consider these plays alongside versions of their subjects in other print forms, including ballads, prose romances, and chapbooks; and theoretical readings on popularity from economic, book historical, and cultural studies perspectives. Readings might include: Shakespeare and Wilkins's Pericles and Wilkins's The Painful Adventures of Pericles, Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday and Thomas Deloney's The Gentle Craft; Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, political pamphleteering, and the anonymous interregnum tragedy Charles I; Mucedorus and Sidney's Arcadia; and others.

COML 599.401 Women's Cinema / World Cinema: Aesthetics, Politics and Institutions
T 3-5 White
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with ANTH 590, CINE 590, ENGL 593

The concept of women's cinema, with its ambiguities--by women, or for women? popular or feminist?--has been debated within feminist film scholarship for three decades. The concept of world cinema-curricular component, brand, or transnational formation?--is currently undergoing an intensified interrogation. With a focus on internationally circulating films directed by women from the global North and South, this course looks at authorship and aesthetics, film policy and financing, festival and art-house programming, and questions of national identity and human rights as they intersect with feminist theory and practice.

COML 604.401 The Ethnographic Detour in French Modernism
T 2-4 Richman
Cross listed with FREN 609

In this course we explore the French specificity of a critical perspective resulting from the ethnographic detour into other cultures. Variously referred to as “anthropological thinking,”the “sociological revolution, “or the “ethnological imagination,” this mode of self-reflection traces its antecedents to the Renaissance discovery of the New World, just as it projects its influence into the period of de-colonization. The results figure among the most innovative social, political, literary and artistic productions of French intellectual and cultural history. Following a brief overview of the formation of this “hoary tradition” in the 16 th century and its revolutionary legacy for the Enlightenment, we consider its role in the development of key critical concepts among the precursors to modernism, including Marx on “commodity fetishism,” Nietzsche on Dionysian pessimism, Frazer on taboo and Freud’s archaeology of the Egyptian sources of monotheism.

The bulk of our readings, however, concentrate on its contribution to the ethnographic strain of French modernism. Here, too, the emphasis is on the remarkable vitality of an approach that forged new genres and forms, whether Segalen’s ethno-fiction, Artaud’s theatre of cruelty or Jean Rouch’s ethno-cinema. Moreover, we will examine the strong inter-texual ties among our central figures, thereby providing an important lens by which to reread at least one strand of the French twentieth century.

Primary authors are Montaigne, Segalen, Durkheim, Mauss, Artaud, Bataille, Leiris, Genêt, Lévi-Strauss, and Tournier, accompanied by a bulkpack of critical sources including Derrida and Said. A screening of Jean Rouch’s “Les Maitres Fous” will also be included.

COML 610.401 Proseminar in Classical Sociology
W 9-12 Collins
Cross listed with SOCI 602

COML 628.401 The Literature of Love in the Age of Pestilence
W 4-7 Solomon
Cross listed with SPAN 630

This seminar explores the hygienic, pathological, and epidemiological underpinnings of late medieval and early modern works on love that emerged shortly before the advent of the plague 1348 to the outbreak of the syphilis epidemic in the early sixteenth century. We will read literary works such as El libro de buen amor, El Arcipreste de Talavera, Celestina, and La lozana andaluza while investigating medical treatises on love and human sexuality, including the anonymous Speculum al foderi, Arnau de Villanova’s De amore heroico, Nuñez de Coria’s Tratado del uso de la mujer, and Ruy Diáz de Ysla’s Tractado sobre el mal serpentino.

The course will be taught in English, but all students are required to have a strong reading knowledge of Spanish.

COML 630.401 Introduction to Medieval Literature
M 2-5 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 630

COML 651.401 Studies in the 17th Century
W 4-6 DeJean
Cross listed with FREN 650

Paris is among a handful of truly mythical cities. Indeed, it is the only modern city that has enjoyed this status for centuries.

It was during the period 1650-1730 that Paris was transformed. To begin with, Paris was literally transformed: new neighborhoods opened up; new monuments were added to the cityscape. Paris then became the first modern city ever to be represented as more than the sum total of its buildings and its inhabitants. Rather than a mere city like many others (London, Amsterdam, Rouen), it became promoted as the intellectual, cultural, and artistic capital of Europe, the premier destination for tourists and consumers of luxury goods: it became in short a legendary space.

As soon as the legend of Paris had taken root, authors began for the first time to set their works in real settings in the cityscape of Paris. We’ll read some of the first plays to advertise Parisian contexts – from Corneille’s La Place royale to Molière’s Le Tartuffe. We’ll look at some of the earliest novels whose plots depend on their use of settings, both prosaic and glamorous, from the city of Paris – from Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves to Préchac’s L’Illustre Parisienne.

We’ll look at reality – in the form of contemporary maps of the city of Paris – as well as fiction. We’ll compare opposing views of Paris – Molière’s bourgeois space and Lafayette’s aristocratic city, for example. And we’ll consider above all the transformation of a real city into a space of dreams, a place where anything was possible and where temptation was everywhere: we’ll ask ourselves why this happened and why it happened when it did. We’ll end by reading the original Parisian fantasy novels: Marivaux’s Le Paysan parvenu and Prévost’s Manon Lescaut.

COML 682.401 Literary Theory
T 3-6 Laddaga
Cross listed with ENGL 571, SPAN 682

We will read and situate in their contexts some of the most influential positions in literary and social theory of the last century. We will pay particular attention to the relevance of each of these positions for the analysis of artistic and cultural phenomena of the present. We will study texts by Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Charles Taylor, Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, Franco Moretti, and others.

COML 691.401 Robert Bolaño and the Question of Literature: Savage Detectives and 2666
R 3-6 De la Campa
Cross listed with SPAN 690

This seminar will look at Bolaño's two most extensive novels as a site for new research on the status of literary studies after 1989. It will explore Bolaño through a number of central questions inspired by new theoretical constructs such as A. Badiou's call for post-Platonic "poetic truths," G. Agamben's concern for a realm of language in the "state of exception" and J. Rancière's novel approach to "politics and aesthetics." Is there a mode of literary production or understanding beyond deconstructive discourses and post-colonial sensibilities? Does the sudden and simultaneous marketing of Bolaño in the United States as well as Latin America respond to similar or different literary paradigms, particularly when it comes to the ways in which literature, practices of reading and the state intersect in the Americas? Must we look at a new relationship between poetry and novelistic discourses in order to read Bolaño's understanding of history? Has biopolitics anything to do with it?

COML 714.401 Classics and Middle English Literature
Undergrads Need Permission
Permission Needed from Department
W 9-12 Copeland
Cross listed with ENGL 715

COML 790.401 Recent Issues in Critical Theory: Derrida and the Political
T 6-9 Kazanjian
Cross listed with ENGL 790

This course has two aims. First, it will offer an introduction to Jacques Derrida’s work, paying particular attention to how Derrida reads texts. That is, deconstruction will be approached as a mode of interpretation. As such, each work by Derrida will be coupled with the text or texts that work interprets. So, for instance, when we read Derrida’s essay “Signature Event Context,” we will read J. L. Austin’s How To Do Things with Words; when we read Of Grammatology, we will read Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages, and so forth. Second, the course will consider the relationship between deconstruction as a mode of interpretation and the political. We will ask, what do we mean by “the political”? Is it confined to Derrida’s later works as is sometimes assumed, or has deconstruction always been political in some sense? This will allow us to consider the import of deconstruction for a critique of rights; for feminism and gender studies; and for the politics of memory, loss, and mourning.

The readings will be in English, and no prior familiarity with Derrida’s work will be required or presumed. Some familiarity with the basic tenets of formalism and structuralism would be useful, the touchstones being Shklovsky, Eichenbaum, Saussure, Benveniste, and Levi-Strauss. As far as introductory surveys of formalism and structuralism, I can recommend Frederic Jameson’s The Prison-House of Language and Kaja Silverman’s The Subject of Semiotics.

COML 795.401 Poetry and Ideology
R 7-10 pm Bernstein
Undergraduates Need Permission
Permission Needed from Department

The seminar will interweave some key texts on ideology and culture with contemporary poetry and poetics, including a section on the persistence of “official verse culture.” Several guests will meet with the seminar: Rosmarie Waldrop (whose Reproduction of Profile will be considered in relation to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations), Jerome Rothenberg (ethnopoetics and the avant-garde), and Al Filreis (we’ll read his new Counter-Revolution of the Word). Sociological, and political works (sometimes just excerpts) will be chosen from a group that includes Althusser’s “Ideological State Apparatus,” Habermas’s Knowledge and Human Interest, Jameson’s The Political Unconscious and Prison House of Language, Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Foucault’s Power/Knowledge, Goffman’s Frame Analysis, and Anderson’s Concerning Western Marxism. Poetics will start with Blake and Swinburne’s Blake, and move on to Poe’s “Poetic Principle,” Hawthorne’s “Minister’s Black Veil,” Whitman’s “Respondez,” Dickinson, and Emerson, Wilde's "Critic as Artist," and go on to Wittgenstein, Weil, Stein, Duchamp, Russian and Italian Futurist and Surrealist manifestos, Irigaray, McGann’s Romantic Ideology, George Lakoff, Susan Stewart, Ron Silliman, Lyn Hejinian, Erica unt, Clark Coolidge, Nathaniel Mackey, Nicole Brossard, Amiri Baraka, Susan Howe, Robert Grenier, Flarf/Conceptual poetry.


Last modified September 10, 2009
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania